The Fresno-Madera California Poison Control Center has been getting too many calls about hydrogen peroxide poisoning to ignore, says its medical director, Dr. Rais Vohra.
People are getting sick from drinking industrial strength hydrogen peroxide, which is 35 percent concentrated, he says. "Even one gulp can be catastrophic because it releases so many oxygen bubbles."
Most people have a brown bottle of 3 percent diluted hydrogen peroxide in the bathroom medicine cabinet, and Vohra says while taking a sip of that isn't a good idea, it probably wouldn't make you severely ill. But taking a small amount of concentrated peroxide will.
Vohra is is concerned about an increase lately in people ingesting the industrial strength peroxide. Vohra says misuse of the disinfectant is not new, but it's becoming more widespread now and he's not sure why. He suspects people are on the internet and find claims that "Food Grade" hydrogen peroxide can help fight all types of illnesses, including allergies and headaches, cardiovascular disease, HIV and influenza.
Ingesting hydrogen peroxide is not safe, he says. The product contains a lot of oxygen, but damage from swallowing industrial strength peroxide — even in amounts diluted in water — can be severe, including perforated stomachs and worse. Thousands of bubbles of oxygen can get into the vessels of the heart and brain, causing heart attacks and strokes, Vohra says. "It actually doesn't dissolve in the liquid in the blood."
According to the poison control center, a study found just under 14 percent of patients who drank food-grade hydrogen peroxide had a partial or total blockage of blood flow to the heart, resulting in a blood clot. Almost 7 percent either died following peroxide ingestion or were disabled. Patients also had seizures and other health problems.
One of the treatments for hydrogen peroxide poisoning is to put patients inside a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, Vohra says. It's the same therapy given to scuba divers who have the "bends" from surfacing too fast, he says.
Vohra says it's both dangerous and a big waste of money to ingest industrial strength hydrogen peroxide. "We just want them to stop."